Just the Tarot Posts

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Dark Ages, The Hierophant Card, and Eschewing Sheep

The Bible as an anachronistic guide for living.

The Bible was really the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, at least for a big chunk of Western history.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams invented a sort of a tourist’s guide book that could be used while visiting various sections of  outer space.   No matter what bizarre planet or dystopian nebula a traveler might be visiting, she could simply consult the Guide to Galaxy to determine what in the hell was going on.

Now imagine, if you will, a world in which the inhabitants were so thoroughly stupid and ill-informed that they thought that the planets they saw in the night sky must be living creatures because, after all, they moved around instead of standing still.  Inhabitants who believed that their own planet was, in fact, flat as a board, and that you might fall off of the edge of it if you sailed your ship too far in any given direction.   People who believed that if a man had a wet dream it was because his, “vital fluids,” were being drained by a succubus.  People who believed that witches had secret teats that they used to nurse black cats.

To use the scientific nomenclature, people who were just as dumb as a bag of rocks.

For such people, life would seem very puzzling and, indeed, very frightening.  They were constantly surrounded by threats and mysteries.  Where does lightning come from?  Do demons live in trees?  Why do we sneeze?  What’s a clitoris and where do you find one?  Well . . . never mind that last one . . .  that’s still going on.

Fortunately, when confronted by this bizarre, evil, scary world, they had a book they could turn to for guidance on nearly any subject.  And not just any book.  This book was written by . . . God.  And, since God actually MADE the bizarre, evil, scary world, he’d be the one who’d have the answers about what in the hell was going on, wouldn’t he?  All of that secret God-knowledge was contained in The Christian Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Dark Ages, also known as the Bible.

Unfortunately, there were very few copies of the Bible in existence, they were enormous,  and those few copies were mainly kept locked away in castles and monasteries.  To make matters worse, even if the common folks were somehow able to get hold of a copy of the Bible, they didn’t know how to read it because . . . you know . . . ddumb as a bag of rocks.  All that they could do was to sit there and hold the Bible and try to guess what it might actually say, which didn’t work out too well.

And so they invented a special class of people who actually COULD read and actually HAD copies of the Bible and they called them, “priests,”  and sometimes, “monks.”  We see one such person in the Tarot card, The Hierophant.

The arrangement that the common people had with the priests was really quite simple.  When they – the common folks – were confronted with a problem or a conundrum in life, they would go to the priest and give him money, or some eggs, or perhaps a goat. Maybe an eggplant.  In return, the priest would bring out an enormous copy of the Bible, flip it open, read a bit, and then tell the common folks what God had to say about how to solve their problems.

We can imagine that this exchange might have gone something like this:

“Yes, hello Father Flanagan.  Top of the morning to you.  We’re here because our well has dried up and if there’s no water we don’t know how the village will come down with giardia this summer.  We can’t decide if we should dig a little deeper or maybe just start a new well, so if you could look in your giant book and tell us what the God person says, we’d appreciate it.  By the way, here’s an eggplant.”

The priest, for his part, would mutter a few incantations, heave open the big, fat book to a random section, and trace a few lines of the Holy Scripture with his finger.

“Ah, here it is, my children.  The Lord saith, “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind,.”  Leviticus 19:14.

“Oh.  Um . . . begging your pardon, your holiness, but what does that mean?”

“It means, don’t trip blind people.”

“Ah . . . yes . . . and that’s very good advice, Father.  I personally try to avoid tripping blind people as much as possible.  Anyone here who trips blind people?”

The common people glance around at each other, shaking their heads.

“Nope, none of us trip blind people.  Well, there was Fred, but that was years ago.  Still, your honorableness, that doesn’t hardly tell us whether to dig a new well.  Could we maybe give it another try?  Here’s another eggplant.”

“Oh, very well.  Let’s see . . . um . . . “You must not lie carnally with any animal, thus defiling yourself with it; a woman must not stand before an animal to mate with it.”  Leviticus 18:23

“Uh, what does THAT mean?”

“It means don’t have sex with your sheep.”

“Eeeeeewww!  Gross!  Jesus.  I’ll have a hard time getting THAT out of my head.  Anyone here sheep fuckers?  No?  Even Fred?  No?  Sigh . . . now, about that well, your priestliness.”

And so on and so on, until the priest had all of the people’s eggplants and the people had, verily, nothing but a dry well to spit in.  

The problem, of course, was that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Dark Ages, aka The Bible, wasn’t really designed for the Dark Ages, it was designed for the Stone Ages.  While knowledge such as how to kill a giant with a slingshot or how to plug up the Nile River with frogs might have been interesting, it hardly solved the more complex problems of the Dark Ages.  People of the Dark Ages were facing more technologically intricate matters, like how to fight dragons or what charcoal worked best when burning heretics at the stake.

The Bible simply didn’t have the answers, no matter how many eggplants they threw at it.

Now, in the very same sense, it’s entirely possible that the Bible doesn’t contain the answers to the questions we’re facing today.

How do we fight a worldwide pandemic?  And the Bible says . . . nothing about that subject.

How do we stop this horrific gun violence?  Nothing.

Should abortion be legal?  Nothing.

Why is Donald Trump orange?  Nothing.

Is Marjorie Taylor Green an alien life form?  Nothing.

Why have we been cursed with the Kardashians?  Nothing

It may very well be that the Bible isn’t just a very, very, very old book that lost a lot in the translation.  It may be that the Bible is totally irrelevant to most of what we call daily life.  That may be why the number of people who self-identify as christians has fallen from 90% in the 1950s to a mere 64% today.

It’s difficult to deal with fundamentalist christians.  They’re still waving The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Dark Ages in the air and screaming that the earth is flat and we might fall off of the edges.  Nonetheless, it may be time to look for a different paradigm and different answers.

At least we’ll get to keep our eggplants.

If you enjoyed this post, please remember that my book, JUST THE TAROT, is available on Amazon for much less than the cost of a Bible and doesn’t contain one single word about sheep.

Cheatin’ Horndogs, Vibrators in the Refrigerator, and Tarot Cards that Indicate Infidelity

Tarot cards that indicate infidelity in a relationship.

“She just started liking cheating songs,
And what’s bothering me,
I don’t know if it’s the cheating she likes,
Or just the melody.” – John Anderson

If you read Tarot cards for other people, you’ll find that one of the major topics that those people want to know about is love and romance.

Is she the right one for me?
Does he feel the same about me that I feel about him?
Should I ask her out?
Should we move in together?
Are we meant to get married?
Will this relationship last?

And, of course, with love and romance there are frequently questions about fidelity and cheating. Most marriages and relationships are, “monogamous,” which is derived from the Greek, meaning, “keep your dick in your pants,” (except when you’re with me.) A very large part of the marital and partnership contract is that when we fall in love we’ll be sexually and emotionally exclusive to that one other person.

Having sex with or becoming emotionally attached to a third party is seen as a major violation of that contract and is grounds for terminating it. And there are major penalties that go along with that violation, such as being locked out of your house in your bathrobe, or having your partner pour maple syrup all over your best clothes just before she throws them out into the front yard. And many times, it’s not even REAL maple syrup, it’s that cheap, artificially flavored crap like Mrs. Butterworths.

Quite naturally, then, people who are cheating on their partners will go to great lengths to conceal it. And, quite naturally, the partner who’s being cheated on will somehow know, on a very deep, almost psychic level, that their mates are being unfaithful. There may be extremely subtle, subliminal clues, such as your husband having a giant hickey on his neck, or finding a pair of jockey shorts under the pillow when you wear boxer shorts. Or perhaps coming home early from work and seeing a naked man running out your back door, or finding a strange vibrator in the refrigerator next to the carton of eggs.

Those are the kinds of subdued, low key signals that will often make a person stop and ponder if there’s something more going on in their marriage than meets the eye. Still, their partners will tend to deny it. The vibrator in the refrigerator must have accidentally fallen into the grocery bag at the supermarket and really belongs to someone else. The naked man running out the backdoor was the plumber, who was sleepwalking, and was completely shocked when he awakened without clothes while he was working on the dripping faucet in the bathroom. The hickey on your husband’s neck was the result of a near tragic vacuum cleaner accident at work. The jockey shorts under the pillow were meant to be a present and now you’ve gone and ruined the surprise.

Even though these are all perfectly rational, reasonable explanations, there may still be lingering suspicions and so your client will want to consult the Tarot cards to determine the truth. Here are a few cards that may indicate that the questioner’s partner is what is clinically referred to as a, “cheatin’ horndog.”


The Lovers is obviously THE romantic relationship card in the Tarot deck. It shows that period of time when you’re first together with your romantic partner and the whole world seems magical and glowing. It’s just the two of you, in your shining little garden. Just you and the angels and . . . um . . . that pesky snake climbing up the tree. When it’s reversed, the party’s over, baby. You’ve been thrown out of the garden and it’s time to deal with reality.


The Devil card shows the same two figures from The Lovers card, only things don’t seem to be as peachy anymore. For one thing, instead of an angel hovering over them, there’s a great big horny kind of a goat/bat demon thingie. They’re chained to a black stone or altar and they have tails which are on fire. (Having your tail burst into flames is another one of those subtle signs that there may be something wrong.) The Devil card can mean a lot of rotten things, such as addictions, super negativity, etc, etc,, but in this context – cheatin’ horndogs – it probably indicates a sexual affair that’s going on and it probably indicates that it’s a pretty heavy duty affair that may have strong elements of BDSM. I mean, horny goats, chains and flaming tails? Really?


The Tower, as you might guess, is NOT a positive card. It usually indicates a freaking disaster that’s happening right in the middle of our happy little lives. The flash of the lightning bolts indicates that it’s sudden and shocking. It tends to destroy our lives right down to the foundation and then we’ve got to start rebuilding them, piece by piece. Having this show up in a reading about fidelity would indicate the sudden knowledge that your partner has been unfaithful and the relationship has been completely destroyed by that lack of fidelity.


The Five of Wands may show up in a relationship where there’s a LOT of emotional turmoil. In the South, they talk about, “fight and fuck,” relationships. These are relationships where the two people involved have huge fights with much screaming and throwing of plates, and then they reconcile and have make-up sex that’s incredibly good. There are spoken phrases in there like, “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry,” and, “I promise this will never happen again, ‘cause you’re the dumplings in my chicken soup, honey buns.” Yes, I know honey buns and chicken soup are a disgusting combination, but you get the idea. There’s cheating going on, but they’ll probably reconcile and spend the next week in bed.


The Queen of Wands has a lot of good characteristics and, among them, is fidelity. If she shows up reversed, there’s a very good chance that someone isn’t practicing that virtue.


The Ace of Cups shows pure, unadulterated love pouring into the world. It tends to appear when someone is just starting off on a new romantic relationship and their hearts are full of love. When it’s reversed, there’s a good chance that their love got adulterated by a cheatin’, adulterating horndog.


Obviously, this is very much of a party hardy card. When it’s upright, it’s healthy, joyous and free partying. When it’s reversed and shows up in this kind of a reading it can indicate that the joy is leaving or that your partner is partying with someone else.


Among other things, the Ten of Cups is the Happy Family card. When it’s reversed it can be a sign that the happy family is breaking up, particularly if it’s a family with children involved.


The Knight of Cups is riding out on a sincere quest for love. Reversed, it indicates that the love wasn’t found.


LOL – well . . . yeah . . . that one’s pretty obvious. Stabbed right in the heart.


The Seven of Swords is all about sneaking around and stealing someone else’s power. This is the kind of person who has an affair right in front of everyone’s eyes and somehow gets away with it. This card also shows up frequently when you’re involved with a malignant narcissist who’s just using you for their own ego gratification.


The Two of Pentacles may show up in a reading like this to indicate someone who’s trying to juggle two different love affairs and keep both of them going.


This may indicate a lover who’s not really giving with a whole, loving heart. Love is being measured out very carefully.

Those are just a few of the red flags that may show up if your questioner wants to know if his or her partner is running around.

Remember to be very careful with these types of readings. Many people are in a great deal of denial when relationships are falling apart and really, really DON’T want you to tell them what you see in the reading. What they want is for you to tell them that they were wrong and that the vibrator in the refrigerator is really just a whipped cream dispenser. If you’re doing a reading for your best friend and you tell her that her husband is playing hide-the-sausage with his secretary, she may not be pleased with you. At all.

And, of course, it’s always possible that the questioner’s partner might NOT be a cheatin’ horn dog. He could just be a rat faced dingleberry, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. In either case, approach this topic with caution. Practice using phrases such as:

It seems that all may not be as it appears.
There’s a certain murkiness here.
There appears to be a fork in the road of life.

Avoid using phrases such as:

I think he’s dipping his wick with your best friend.
She’s a real bottom feeder and believe me, I MEAN bottom.
You should have listened to your mother. By the way, does your mother still have that spare room?

I hope that this little guide has been useful to you and, if it has, you should consider buying my book on reading Tarot cards, which is still available, DIRT CHEAP, on Amazon.

The Pragmatism of Happiness, Colliding with Bubbles and The Five of Wands

The pragmatism of choosing to be happy.

Maybe we’re just meant to be happy.

That may sound a bit simplistic and silly on the face of it.  “Duh . . . who doesn’t want to be happy?”  Still, when we consider all of the hoops we jump through in order to NOT be happy, it’s kind of amazing.  Happiness, for many of us, always seems to be a future event rather than something we enjoy in the present moment.

  • I’ll be happy when I finally get out of high school.
  • I’ll be happy when I finally get laid.
  • I’ll be happy when I get a good job.
  • I’ll be happy when I get that new computer.
  • I’ll be happy when I get a new car.
  • I’ll be happy when I fall in love.
  • I’ll be happy when I get married.
  • I’ll be happy when I get divorced.
  • I’ll be happy when the kids are grown up and I have some time for myself.

And on and on and on.  That approach is valid, to a certain extent.  We do get some measure of happiness from all of these things and events, but it never seems to last.  It never seems like real happiness.  It’s like we’re microdosing instead of getting the whole pill.

One of the problems is that we always look at happiness as something that happens to us, rather than something we generate on our own.  We see this reflected in the way that we talk about the process.  “You make me happy.”  Or, “this made me sad.”  Or, “I couldn’t believe how happy that made me feel.”  

The way we verbalize it sounds like there are these bubbles floating around the universe that we occasionally have collisions with and it changes the way that we feel.  “Uh, oh, I just ran into a sad bubble, so I’m sad now.”  Or, “Oh, man, that happy bubble felt good.  Yay!”

Since we don’t control those sources of happiness, since they’re things that happen to us rather than by us, we never feel as if we control our own happiness.  Yes, we can try to maximize our lives so that we run into more happy bubbles than sad bubbles.  We can get rid of the negative people in our lives.  We can find jobs that don’t totally suck.  We can intentionally pick out books or videos that are uplifting, rather than depressing.  But that’s still giving that power of happiness away to exterior sources.  We’re still just trying to control the exterior sources rather than realize our own ability to be happy just because we want to be.

So a good first step in being happy is to just claim our own emotional states.  That means realizing that our happiness, sadness, joy, depression, anger, love, etc. are all things that we are generating ourselves.  They don’t come from outside of us – we’re making them up as we go along.  

Put another way, it’s not a simple stimulus/response interaction.  We don’t have to automatically respond to our life’s events in certain pre-programmed ways.  We can – and do – interpret them.  We just usually interpret them in a very unconscious way.  We’ve been taught that some events are supposed to make us sad and some events are supposed to make us happy and we never stop to question why.

For instance, marriage = happiness and divorce = sadness.  We accept that equation instantly, despite the fact that about half the marriages in our country are miserable experiences and divorce often feels like being let out of a prison.  As the bumper sticker says, “It is better to have loved and lost than to go on living with a psychopath.” 

Now, once we’ve gotten there, when we’re willing to accept that WE are making our own emotions happen rather than colliding with random happy or sad bubbles, then the next step is to actually ask ourselves why we’re choosing those emotions.  A good yardstick to use in that process is evaluating whether they’re actually doing anything for us.  Are they making our lives better?  Are they moving things forward?  Are they improving the quality of our lives?

By way of an example, I used to love, love, LOVE my self-righteous anger.  If I really, genuinely felt that I was right and someone else was wrong, I was willing to argue all night and fight to the death to defend my position and change the other person’s opinion.  I was angry because I had every right to be angry.  

In my defense, I don’t think I’m exactly alone in that process.  Social media groups often feel like the Five of Wands, where everyone is madly swinging their opinions at everyone else, all of us sure that we’ve got the real skinny on what’s true and what’s not.  Our current politics are even worse.

A peculiar thing happened to me, though, where I reached a point of realization that anger just didn’t work very well.  It was this sudden revelation that every single time I got angry, it made things worse instead of better.  Every single time.  Without fail, if I lost my temper I ended up with shit on my shoes and feeling like hell.  Far from changing anyone’s mind about the issue we were arguing over, it just convinced them that I was an angry asshole and there was no reason to listen to me.

And so I just gave it up.  Sure, I get irritated or impatient, just like any other human being, but I haven’t been angry in several years.  Not because I’m some kind of Mahatma Gandhi, but simply because it doesn’t work.  It’s like trying to use the wrong key to start your car.  If you know it’s not going to work, why would you do it?

In the same sense, sadness and depression are emotions that just don’t work very well for human beings.  They make life a lot harder, instead of a lot easier.  They freeze us in place and keep us from attaining our goals and feeling connections with life and joy.  

They are basically an unnatural act, in the true sense of that term.  When we look at young critters, what’s their primary activity?  Play.  Puppies, kittens, young humans, young apes, any young being gets up in the morning and plays until they’re so exhausted that they fall over.  And then they get up and do it again.  We’re born happy and we have to learn how to be unhappy.

Now, it’s true that into every life a little shit must fall.  We aren’t going to feel happy and positive when someone we love has just died or we’ve just gotten run over by a truck.  About 90% of the time, though, NOTHING IS WRONG.  That means that in about 90% of our lives, we can make that simple choice of how we’re going to feel:  happy or sad?  Can you imagine having a life that was 90% happy?  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be some bold, existential statement, either.  It doesn’t have to be some phony Pollyanna stance that everything in life is sweetness and light.  It can be a simple act of pragmatism.  Happiness makes us feel connected with life and our fellow beings.  We move forward toward our goals and opportunities for growth seem to appear out of nowhere.  Depression makes us miserable and we feel that we have no choices and no growth in life.

In a nutshell, depression doesn’t work very well.  Sadness doesn’t work very well.  We can give them up, just like a bad habit, because ultimately that’s all they are.  

The Seven of Swords, Vampires in Pink Bow Ties, and Malignant Narcissists

Malignant Narcissists as the source of monster legends.

Have you ever been worked over by a malignant narcissist?

Perhaps an incredibly charming person appeared in your life and he or she seemed to absolutely worship you.  You were told to an almost embarrassing extent how perfect you were, how beautiful, how intelligent, how sexy.  You fell in love, let down all of your guards and boundaries, and within a year that same person was constantly devaluing your opinions and your self worth and telling you that you just weren’t quite good enough.  You were too fat or too skinny or not very bright or not very well informed or your hair was too long or too short or you weren’t very satisfying in bed.

Or perhaps it was a family member, someone you’d always been fond of and trusted, but you find that they’re actually tearing you down and belittling you to other family members when you’re not there.

Or perhaps it’s a co-worker that you liked and opened up to about your personal life when you had a couple of drinks too many on a Friday night.  On Monday morning you’re shocked to discover that your drinking buddy has shared your personal, “secrets,” not only with all of your co-workers but with your boss, as well.  

There’s a common reaction from anyone who’s been chopped up and spit out by a malignant narcissist and that reaction is bewilderment.

“How could I have been so stupid?”

“Why didn’t I see this coming?”

“But . . . I thought he loved me . . .”

“She totally got under my radar.”

For whatever scant comfort it may provide, you’re in extremely good company.  Some of the smartest, most empathetic, highly evolved people in the world have been taken to the emotional cleaners by malignant narcissists.  It’s what they do and they’re experts at it.  It has NOTHING to do with how intelligent you are, how attractive you are, or how evolved you are.  To a malignant narcissist, you’re just a tasty snack.

The Seven of Swords is a perfect image of a malignant narcissist.  He’s stealing someone else’s power, as represented by the swords slung over his shoulder.  The flaps on the tent are closed, showing that the person he’s stealing from is totally unaware of what he’s doing.  And even the guard posted outside of the tent – representing our conscious mind – seems to not register what’s going on.

If we type, “malignant narcissist,” into a search engine, we’ll get a huge number of results.  There are literally thousands of articles and videos discussing what they do to other people, how they do it, and why they’re malignant narcissists to begin with.  Really, it’s kind of astounding when we realize that they only comprise 5% of the population.  To put it one way, they seem to have an over-sized footprint.  To put it another way, they’ve fucked with an AWFUL lot of us.

Although the term, “malignant narcissist,” is fairly new, there’s nothing new about this personality type.  In the past, they’ve been referred to as sociopaths, psychopaths, monomaniacs, and, “utterly without a conscience.”

And my favorite term for them:  monsters.

There is something positively inhuman about malignant narcissists.  They seem to have absolutely no sense of empathy or compassion.  They have no conscience and remorse.  And, far from being intelligent in the sense that most of us might use the term, their intelligence is more on the level of a vicious animal, a predator hunting down its prey.

We don’t even have to bend reality too much to see the malignant narcissist as the probable source of all of the, “monster,” legends that human cultures have promulgated.  Vampires, for instance, were seen as beings with no souls, no compassion, who fed on their victims and destroyed them in the process.  That’s a pretty good description of a malignant narcissist.

Of course, one of the things that folklore tells us about vampires is that they didn’t have any reflection in a mirror, which would drive a malignant narcissist nuts. They like to see how beautiful they are.  It might have been the reason that vampires were always on the prowl for fresh victims:  not just for fresh blood, but for more feedback.

“So . . . before I bite into your jugular vein and drain all of the life out of you, let me ask you one question.  How do I look in this outfit?”

“Wha . . . wha . . . WHAT?”

“This outfit.  How do I look?  The tuxedo and the string tie.  Too much?  Does it make me look pale?  I can’t see myself in the mirror, you know, and I’m just dying to know what you think of it.”

“Well . . . I mean . . . it is a little stark, I guess.  Just black and white is kind of . . . I don’t know . . . a little visually boring.  It could maybe use a touch of color.”

“Ah HA!  Precisely what I was thinking!  Just a dash of something a little brighter.  A red cummerbund, perhaps, or even a pink bow tie.”

“No, no, I wouldn’t go with pink.  Pink just isn’t . . . you.  Red would be fine.  Red would match your eyes and it’s more of a statement of who you really are.  You know:  the whole blood thing.  You could probably even get away with a deep magenta, but no pink.”

“Ah, thank you, thank you.  This conversation has been really invaluable to me.  Now, just one more thing before I kill you.  How do you like this hairstyle?  I’ve been thinking less hair gel and more curls . . .”

We can extend the vampire metaphor even further.  Like vampires, malignant narcissists just . . . won’t . . . stay . . . fucking . . . DEAD.  When we finally get enough of them and tell them to get lost, they just keep coming back for another drink of our blood.  It really does feel like we’d have to drive a stake through their hearts, cut their heads off, and stuff their mouths full of garlic cloves to finally make them shut up and leave us the fuck alone.

And, of course, malignant narcissists can’t stand the light of day.  When they’re finally fully exposed for what they are, they crumble into dust.  It becomes totally apparent that there’s no human substance to them, that there’s nothing there but sharp teeth and a giant ego.

One final thing that they have in common with vampires is that they count on us to make that one flawed decision that leads us to our own destruction, which is to get involved with them in the first place.  We all know that scene in the old Dracula movies where the Intrepid Traveller is standing in front of the horrible creepy castle.  There’s blood dripping down the walls, bats are flying in and out of the windows, wolves are howling in the distance and the Traveller looks at all of that and says, “By golly, I think I’ll knock on the door and see if anyone’s at home.”

The entire theater audience is mentally shrieking, “No, no, don’t get in there, stupid!  He’ll bite your throat!  Stay at the Motel 8 instead.  I know the rooms are tiny, but there are good locks and they have those little coffee machines.”

The same thing happens with malignant narcissists.  If we don’t go through their door, we don’t get our throats bitten and have the life force drained out of us.  It may well be that most of us will never be smart enough to deal with malignant narcissists effectively.  They are, after all, apex predators.  

What we can do, though, is to learn to recognize them.  If someone shows up in our lives and they’re so charming that it’s hard to believe – don’t believe it.  If someone is love-bombing us WAY too early in the relationship, ask ourselves why they’re doing it.  If it feels like love at first sight, take a good, hard second look.  

And take a good hard look at their histories.  One of the things I’ve noticed about malignant narcissists is that they have virtually NO social media presence.  Which is odd, when we think about it, because narcissists love, love, love to talk about themselves.  Malignant narcissists, on the other hand, are terrified of people they’ve exploited blowing their cover so they have no desire to leave a record on social media.  If you knew how many ex-lovers they’d left in bloody tatters, you’d run like hell in the opposite direction.

Finally, if you’ve been victimized by a malignant narcissist even once, or if you had parents who were narcissists, I’d HIGHLY recommend watching Dr. Ramani’s series of videos on YouTube.  

David Carradine, The Higher Self, and Holes Which Don’t Exist

A brief exploration of the meaning of life as illustrated by a Chinese instruction manual.

A few years ago I was assembling a shelf that had been manufactured in China and trying to decode the instructions manual for putting it together.  There were the usual directives – “insert screws A into holes B” – and I was following them quite efficiently when I read a line that stopped me dead in my tracks:


I stared at that sentence for several moments and realized that I had to stop and think about it because it just sounded so . . . profound.  Particularly since it had come from China which, as we all know, is a Land of Mystery which is virtually overrun with Wise Sages who utter Profound Things pretty much all of the time.

Had a Taoist Priest somehow infiltrated the Chinese shelf factory and quietly scattered deep truths in all of the instruction manuals?  I immediately visualized Master Po, the Shaolin priest on the old Kung Fu television series, looking at young David Carradine and saying, “When you can place the bolt which is not supplied into the hole which does not exist, then it will be time for you to go, Grasshopper.”

Sadly, as much as I turned the phrase over and over in my mind, I was unable to glean any universal wisdom from it.  It could be that I just haven’t reached the level of clarity and insight that will allow me to penetrate to its true meaning.  Or it might have been a typo.

In either case, the memory always makes me think about instruction manuals and the fact that all human beings come into the world supplied with them.

One of the most discomfiting experiences in life is to suddenly pop into a little higher realm of thought and wonder, “What in the holy FUCK am I doing here?”  That can also be expressed as, “What’s the meaning of life?”  Or, “Does life HAVE any meaning?  Or even, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

All human beings yearn for meaning in one form or another.  We want to feel that we’ve somehow made a difference, that we’ve learned something, that we’ve touched other people’s hearts and spirits in our strange little trips through the Earth School.  When we actually stop and ask ourselves if our lives really mean anything, it can feel like we’re waking up on a train that’s hurtling along in the dark of night, we have NO idea how we got on the train, we don’t know where the train’s going, we don’t seem to have any ID cards in our wallets and, for some peculiar reason, we can’t quite remember who we are.

Life without a sense of meaning reduces us to feeling, as Alan Watts put it, as if we’re some sort of strange living tubes that suck in food at one end and excrete it at the other for no apparent purpose until we die.

Of course, one answer to that is to become Existentialists.  We can proclaim that life has NO meaning other than that which we personally give it and that we somehow find our meaning by embracing our meaninglessness.  That way we can go from the position of, “I don’t have a fucking clue,” to the position of, “I don’t have a fucking clue and isn’t it amazing of me to admit it?”

I mean, it’s not much of a position to take in life, but at least it’s a position.  Plus, if you’re an Existentialist, you get to be tragically hip, dress in a lot of dark clothes and frequently gaze off into the distance as if you’re in deep thought, when you’re really just thinking about what to eat for lunch.

There’s an alternative position, though, which some of the Eastern religions take and which has sort of filtered its way into the New Age/New Thoughts movements.  And that’s that we know precisely why we’re here but we’ve just forgotten.

I know, I know . . . it sounds a little far fetched.  How could we possibly forget what our purpose in life is?  Well, we forget where we put our car keys all of the time and they’re a lot easier to keep track of.

Think of it this way:  we’re hanging around out in the universe in between incarnations and we think, “Hey, you know what?  I think I’m going to incarnate on Earth!  That could be fun!  And I have this particular lesson that I need to learn and Earth might just be the perfect place to learn it.”

So before we reincarnate, we run through our pre-incarnation check list so that we can maximize our chances of learning what we need to learn.  “Let’s see . . . do I want to be born into a rich family or a poor family?  What race do I want to be?  What country do I want to be born into?  Should my parents be good people or assholes?  Do I want a penis or a vagina?  Decisions, decisions, decisions . . .”  

Then, when we’ve got everything figured out, we wait for the next opportunity to jump into a body.  “Oh, boy, here comes that sperm cell and it looks like it’s going to get to the egg and it’s getting closer and it’s crossing the finish line and – YES! – the next incarnation mission has successfully launched!  That’s one small step for man and one giant step for . . .”  

Well, you get the idea.  If all goes well and we make it through the next nine months of gestation – SHAZAM! – here we are on planet Earth, a human being, all ready to learn our lessons and fulfill our purpose for being here.  

Only, somewhere along the line, we forgot what our purpose was.

How embarrassing.  Don’t tell anyone.

Fortunately (or not, depending on our perspective), there are a lot of distractions here on planet Earth and we go on a lot of mini-missions.  We start with things like, “I wanna get fed and I want my diapers changed.”  Then, as we get older, we concentrate on things like, “I want to get laid and I want to get OUT of this goddamned high school.”  And then we move on to, “I want a partner.  I want a house.  I want a car.  I want a new computer.  I want a better job.”

It all gets very complex but, still, every once in a while, that little voice pops up and asks, “Does this mean anything?  Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?”

It’s a terrifying question but it’s even more terrifying when we feel like there’s an answer but we can’t quite put our finger on it.

Which is where a spiritual practice comes in.

Most spiritual practitioners will tell us that that part of us, the one who said, “Hey, I think I want to incarnate on Earth and hang out there for a while,” is still with us, right here, right now, just waiting for us to ask it what in the hell we’re doing here.  You know . . . if we can pause long enough from eating and having sex and shopping on Amazon.

Some religions call it a, “Soul,” which I don’t much care for because the christian fundamentalists have pretty much yucked that up.  Other practices might refer to it as our, “Higher Self,” or our Spirit.  

People who meditate a lot will tell us that when we sit long enough watching our thoughts we become aware of the fact that there is another, “us,” sitting and watching and THAT’S the Higher Self.  Not our bodies, not our emotions, not our thoughts, but another, “us,” who is profoundly wise and deeply connected with our purpose for being here.

People who blast off on an acid trip or take a lot of magic mushrooms will frequently encounter that Higher Self and maybe zip around the astral plane with it.  Shamans who go on Spirit Quests are looking to have a little conversation with their Souls.  Even brain researchers like Jeffrey M. Schwartz posit the existence of a, “Wise Counselor,” who’s here to guide us and floats above our everyday lives.

The point is that the Wise Counselor, the Higher Self, the Spirit . . . that’s who’s got our instruction manuals.  That’s the part of us who knows why in the hell we’re here and what we’re supposed to be doing.  That’s the part of us who can tell us how to put the bolt which is not supplied into the hole which doesn’t exist.

So it becomes vitally important that we engage with that part of our being.  That we actively seek answers through whatever means will get us into communication with our Higher Selves.  For some of us that might mean meditation.  For others, ecstatic dance or yoga.  For others, psychedelics.  There is ALWAYS a gate for each one of us that leads us back to our Higher Selves.  We just have to look for it.

Once we find it, once we accomplish our purpose here in Earth school, once we learn how to put the bolt which is not supplied into the hole which doesn’t exist, then it will be time for us to go.


The Five of Cups and the Dark and Magical Path to Happiness.

Happiness as a choice, rather than just a state of being.

The Five of Cups shows a person who is in deep grief.  He’s lost something vital in his life and he’s mourning it on the deepest, most profound  level.  In the system of the Tarot, Cups represent emotions and he sees three of his cups lying on the ground, tipped over, and spilling out their emotions.  He’s literally hypnotized and immobilized by his sadness.

A sub-theme of this card is that he is also NOT focusing on the two remaining cups, which are upright and full.  He is so concentrated on what he’s lost that he’s not perceiving that he still has something left to be grateful for.

Happiness is one of those things in life that we seldom contemplate until we lose it.  Most humans are born happy.  Sure, there are the inevitable times when babies get, “fussy,” or decide to stay awake screaming their little heads off all night, but most young critters are happy, playful and content.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about human babies, puppies, kittens, or deer, the young are pretty much happy, pretty much most of the time.

So in many ways, happiness is a birthright of most living beings.  It’s also frequently a matter of inertia – objects in motion tend to stay in motion and happy people tend to stay happy.  We don’t even think about it until it disappears – we’re just pretty much happy, pretty much most of the time.  In the words of the old blues song, “You don’t miss your water ‘til your well runs dry.”

We’re told that into each life a little shit must fall, and, sure enough, we all suffer a certain amount of loss and grief.  We all have loved ones who die or become very ill, we get fired from jobs, we go through separations and divorces, and we occasionally get into car wrecks or fall down and break something that we’d rather not have broken. 

Thankfully, for most of us, those losses come in fairly measured doses and we have enough support built into our lives to recover and return to our natural state of happiness.  But there are also those of us who get absolutely hammered by loss and grief.  Who don’t just experience the death of loved ones, but the tragic death of loved ones.  Who don’t just go through a divorce but go through a devastating divorce, lose their homes, lose their jobs, and find themselves out on the street with nothing but the lint in the pockets of their overcoats.  Who not only lose their happiness, but lose it for a LONG time.  

Oddly, those are the people who probably appreciate happiness the most, because they’re the people who were forced to live without it.  They’re the people who had to fight to regain it, often alone, frightened, and hopeless.  To my mind, they’re some of the real heroes in life, the spiritual warriors who made it back from the dark side, from the brink of madness and suicide.

If you’ve ever gone through that kind of a loss, you’ll know what I mean.  If you’ve suffered a major nervous breakdown, or battled with alcoholism and addiction, or lived with crippling depression, you know what it’s like to be so down that you can’t even see up anymore.  Life becomes a meaningless, seemingly endless, series of days and nights filled with darkness, sadness, and extreme anxiety.  You don’t really know why you go on living, but you do, putting one foot in front of the other and slogging along toward nothing.

Now, some of us don’t make it back from that journey into darkness.  Some of us get swept over the precipice into oblivion.  Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.  In 2020 there were 1.2 million suicide attempts in the country and nearly 46,000 successful suicides.  Those are, of course, only the suicides we know about because many of them are concealed.

For those of us who do make it back, happiness becomes a desperate quest and a practice.  We realize at some point that if we’re going to stay alive we somehow have to find a way to recapture happiness and build it back into our lives.  For some of us, that means finding a really good therapist to help us unravel all of the emotional knots and heal the psychic wounds.  For others, the gateway to happiness is the doorway to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall.  Perhaps happiness arrives in the form of a prescription for Prozac or a spiritual reawakening or even a psilocybin mushroom. 

Happiness doesn’t arrive all at once, neatly bound in wrapping paper and ribbons.  It’s something that we carefully build back into our lives, one trembling step at a time.  We may need to learn how to control our thoughts that obsessively lead us back to melancholy view points.  We may need to learn how to control our emotions and just do some deep belly breathing and meditation when we feel overwhelmed with sadness.  We may need to sit down with a therapist and do some serious exploration of why our paths crumbled under our feet.

Happiness at that point is transformed from a natural occurrence into a set of skills that we practice in our daily lives.

For me, one of the major breakthroughs was my therapist teaching me that we can be happy whenever we want to be.  We can sit down, meditate on something that makes us happy, and we will feel happy, even if just for a few moments.  If we string together enough of those meditations, we have a happy day.  If we string together enough of those days, we have a happy life.  It’s a skill.  It’s a practice.

The other day I was listening to this delightful video from author Mary Pipher about her book, “Women Rowing North.”  

The book is primarily about women and about aging, but it also has a lot of good information on happiness.  One of the things she said that really jumped out at me is that happiness is an existential choice.

There’s a deeply profound lesson in there because happiness can’t be a choice until we’ve lost it and then we’ve finally learned how to regain it.

When happiness is just our natural state of being, we’re on spiritual cruise control.  When we’re pretty much happy, pretty much most of the time, like puppies and kittens and babies,  we’re not choosing happiness – we just ARE happy.  And happiness is frequently perceived as something that’s outside of us, that happens to us, rather than something we create.  We meet the right partner, we stumble into a good job, we have a nice summer, we get laid, we see a funny movie.  It’s all a sort of a pleasant parade of sweet events that we have absolutely no control over.

When we lose our happiness – really and truly lose it for an extended period of time – and we learn how to recreate it in our lives, then it becomes something that we can control.  It becomes a product of practicing certain skill sets like meditating, staying in positive thinking, avoiding negative situations and people, and performing all of the little mental and emotional hygiene tasks that are required to stay in a state of happiness.  We’re trying to stay in a state of happiness because we KNOW that we’ll die if we don’t.

There’s a step beyond that, though, which is what Mary Pipher is talking about.  When we practice happiness long enough, there comes a wonderful day when we realize that we CHOOSE to be happy.  At that point, happiness isn’t just a survival mechanism, it isn’t just a way to avoid the darkness.  It’s an active, conscious embrace of the Light.  Happiness isn’t just a way to get along, it becomes our primary value and our choice and we know that we’ll never live without it again.

It’s a huge gift in life.  We only find it at the end of some very dark paths, but when we reach that point we realize that the journey has been a magical quest that led us to our own inner light.

The Four of Pentacles, Elon Musk, and the Buddha in High Top Sneakers

An exploration of materialism as a source of joy.

I recently bought a pair of Keds High Top Sneakers and I got a major spiritual insight out of them.  That may sound a little weird but Robert Pirsig in, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” said that the Buddha could reside as easily on a computer chip as on a lotus.  So I see no reason that the Buddha couldn’t wear Keds High Tops.

I actually have a long history with Keds High Top Sneakers.  More accurately, I have a long NON history with them.  When I was a kid I desperately wanted a pair of them.  I thought that, without a doubt, they were the coolest sneakers in the entire world, and I was especially enamored of the circular white rubber sticker on the ankle that said, “KEDS.”  I knew that if I could get my feet into those sneakers all of my problems would be solved and I would live happily ever after, forevermore.

So, of course, my parents wouldn’t buy them for me, because that’s what parents do when you’re a little kid.  They stomp all over your sneaker dreams and leave you as a damaged human being who will grow up to be maladjusted and unable to cope with the modern world or ever form a meaningful relationship.  And all because they wouldn’t buy you a lousy pair of Keds High Tops.  Tragic, really.

I don’t know why I had to get this old before it finally occurred to me that I could buy my OWN Keds HIgh Top Sneakers.  Talk about self-love!  Talk about nurturing my Inner Child!  What a brilliant idea:  I could buy my own Keds!

And so I did.

The moment of Spiritual Keds Insight came when I opened the package at home and found myself feeling pure, unadulterated . . . fun.  It was just a LOT of fun pulling the little paper wads out of the toes, lacing them up, pulling them on and walking around the house admiring my feet.  My new KEDS HIGHTOP feet!

And that’s when I solved a basic conundrum I’ve been dealing with about  affirmations, visualization, and all of the various courses and videos out there that teach us, “how to have the life and abundance that we’ve always dreamed of having.”

I realized that I’d been feeling guilty about having material possessions that make me happy.  I’m in good company in experiencing that guilt because a lot of us – particularly those of us who were raised in Christian families – have been taught that material possessions are really, really bad.  Jesus rapped on that subject several times and said that it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.  He didn’t choose to expand the thought and tell us whether it’s easier for a camel to get into heaven than for a rich man to get through the eye of a needle, but I would certainly think so, all things being equal.  Nonetheless, it was clear that he had a mighty poor opinion of rich people and all of their toys.

One result of that early programming about material possessions (they are bad and you won’t get into heaven) is that I have trouble really embracing the New Thought teachings about abundance.  I definitely believe in visualization and in affirmations because I’ve seen them work in my own life.  Still, when the speakers get to the inevitable part where they talk about abundance, I veer off course.  Their talks usually go something like:

“Just a few short years ago I was so poor that I couldn’t even afford to have a penis.  I was so far down I had to look up to see a snake’s belly.  I was so poverty stricken that all I could afford to eat was dirt.  Why, I remember going into coffee shops and asking for a cup of hot water because it was free and then, when they weren’t looking, I’d mix some dirt into the water and pour ketchup on it so I could have some dirt soup.  But then one day when I was sitting in the local park –  because that’s the only place I had to sleep – I was chewing on some dirt and licking dew off of the leaves of a tree to wash it down and I suddenly understood . . . EVERYTHING!  And that’s when I developed my Amazing New Method of visualizing.  Now I have a private jet, 12 sports cars, 6 mansions, 8 girlfriends and, yes, friends, I’ve even grown a penis.  A big one.  And if you buy my new book you can have all of that, too!”

I’m good with that, right up until the point where they mention the jet, sports cars and mansions and then I think, “Bad . . . you won’t get into heaven.”  Because, you know, materialism is shallow and not really spiritual or evolved and people become obsessed with making money and turn into Donald Trump and Elon Musk, even though we kind of have to halfway forgive Elon because what chance did he have with a name like that? 

There’s even a Tarot card for it:  The Four of Pentacles.

It shows a man sitting on his little stool, clutching a coin to his chest, with another coin sitting on his head.  It’s not so much that he owns his money as that it owns him.  It’s sitting on him as much as he’s sitting on it. You can take one look at him and tell he’s not getting through the eye of a needle, much less into heaven.

Now, one of the most misquoted passages from the Bible is, “Money is the root of all evil.”  The actual passage says that THE LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil.  And that’s what my new sneakers taught me:  it’s not about the material possessions, it’s about the ATTACHMENT to them.

Buddhists talk a lot about attachment.  When we attach to material possessions (or even lovers)  we automatically start to think of them as, “ours.”  As extensions of ourselves, as part of our egos.  We feel more important because we have, “stuff,” and the more stuff we get, the more important we feel.  Then we start looking around at other people and comparing our stuff to their stuff.  If we’ve got more stuff than them, or more expensive stuff, then we must be better than them.  If they’ve got more or better stuff, then we become jealous of them and maybe even grow to hate them or dream about them losing all of their stuff so that we’ll be more important.

That’s the point where we’ve stopped seeing ourselves or others as humans and substituted material possessions for a measurement of worth.  Yes, that’s bad and, no,  we won’t get through the eye of a camel anymore, not even a rich camel.

But there’s a sort of a, “pre-attachment,” point with material possessions where they’re just a lot of fun, and fun is good in the same way that happy is good.  That’s what my Keds sneakers taught me.

If we give a new toy to a normal, very young child, the kid is going to be just as happy as a little clam in diapers.  She’ll play with it and stick it in her mouth and drool on it and carry it around for days.  And laugh a lot.  It’s a wonderful, fun thing to watch and there’s no downside.

Within a very short period of development, though, we begin to see a change in the way that some children receive new toys.  Especially in homes where there are too many children and not enough love, we see kids start to attach to their toys.  This is MY toy, it’s not yours.  They don’t want to share it with the other children and may begin to hide and even hoard their toys.  They may go into absolute screaming fits if one of the other kids tries to play with their . . . stuff.  Basically, even at that very young age, they’ve learned to substitute material possession for self worth and love.

The trick, then, is to re-learn the joy of a new toy without attaching to it.  There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with enjoying material possessions.  Hell, it’s probably hard wired into our nervous systems.  

I can thoroughly enjoy my Keds High Tops without at all thinking that my High Tops are better than your loafers.  I don’t have to run out and buy 20 more pairs of High Tops so that I’ll have a lot more of them than you.  I don’t need to put my High Tops in a safety deposit box.  I don’t have to get all tragically existential because, yes, someday my High Tops will wear out, so what’s the point of life anyway???

I can just enjoy them and I can do that with any other material possession that I want.  There’s nothing innately evil, wrong, or unspiritual about Keds High Tops.  They’re fun and fun is good, in the same way that happy is good, and happy is very good indeed.

At the end of the day, we’re here in the Earth School and the Earth School is chock full of fun toys, so we can just take pleasure in them, share them, and even love them for exactly what they are: toys.  Life is good and no one named us Elon Musk, so there is much to be grateful for.

Happy Buddhists, Christian Apple Munchers and Garden Gnomes in Tutus

Why Buddhism is actually a happy religion.

The Dalai Lama giggles a lot.  Have you ever noticed that?  On a certain level, he seems to find life to be absolutely hilarious.  For instance, there’s this wonderful interview that Barbara Walters did with him and, toward the end of the video, he absolutely cracks up about the fact that Eskimos kiss each other by rubbing noses.

It seems a little strange because Buddhism has a reputation for being a very dark, solemn sort of a religion.  That reputation probably flows out of the Buddha’s admonition that, “life is suffering,” which is not exactly what he said, but it’s the way that it’s frequently translated.  So we have this religious doctrine that seems to say that life is suffering, yet we see Buddhists like the Dalai Lama and Thic Nhat Hahn who not only seem to be happy, they seem to be really, really, REALLY happy.

What’s up with that?

The tarot card, The Hierophant, is all about formal doctrine, rather than first hand experience.  Religion, rather than spirituality.  It represents what religions SAY they are, rather than the way that they’re actually practiced on a daily basis by their followers.  Oddly, there’s a curious optimism that permeates Buddhism once we get past the doctrines and get into the actual experience of, “living Buddhism.”  

Although I’m sure that the Buddha wouldn’t dig my doing this because it involves a lot of judgment,  one of the best ways to illustrate that optimism  is by contrasting it with the dominant Western religion, Christianity.  In particular, how do the two religions actually VIEW human beings?

Christianity starts out with the basic premise that humans are miserable, flawed sinners.  According to Christian doctrine, we’re actually born that way, which doctrine is referred to as, “original sin.”  Now, it’s kind of hard to get a grasp on what original sin really means, but when you wrestle it to the ground it seems to mean that every single one of us was born with, “the stain of Adam,” on our souls.  Which goes back to Adam and Eve getting thrown out of the Garden of Eden because that bitch Eve just HAD to have an apple

I know, right?  It’s kind of hard to figure the reasoning.  Still, it appears to say that because our great, great, great, great, great grandmother to the hundredth power munched on an apple, we’re all born sinners and destined to go straight to hell if we don’t find redemption.  That’s also, by the way, the reason that women have been, “cursed,” with having periods every month.

I’m not making this shit up.  

So, according to Christianity, at the core of every human being there’s a rotten, sinful, apple muncher and we come into the world that way.  That’s why you’ve got to get babies baptized right away, because babies are basically pure evil, as we all know.

The Buddhist viewpoint is very much the opposite.  Buddhists believe that at the core of every human being is absolute perfection.  We just don’t know it.  Tibetan Buddhist Master, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, described this by saying that we all have a beautiful jewel at the center of our hearts which is covered over by common rock.  Our job is to slowly chip away at the rock that’s covering our jewel so that more and more of it is exposed as we go through our lives. Yes, life is suffering, but it’s suffering because we remain ignorant of our true nature, which is bliss and joy.

To put all of that in a nutshell, Christianity says that we should pretty much hate ourselves and Buddhism says that we should pretty much love ourselves.  It shouldn’t be a major news flash to anyone that hating yourself feels really, really bad and loving yourself feels really, really good.

Which may be why the Pope doesn’t do a lot of giggling.

There’s another major implication here, which is that Chrisitanity views, “salvation,” as coming from an outside source and Buddhism sees it as very much of an inside job.  Christianity says that we are SO fucked up and miserable and down in the dirt that we literally have no chance of saving ourselves.  We just have to pray and hope that Jesus is going to ride in on his white horse and whack us with his redemption wand and THEN we get to go to heaven.

Buddhists believe that our salvation, our Buddha nature, is already inside of us, so ANYONE can become a Buddha.  That means you, me, our Aunt Gertrude, or even the weird guy down the block who collects garden gnomes and dresses them in tutus. And we don’t get there by some outside deity or force, “forgiving us,” we get there by sitting our asses down on the meditation cushion and by practicing love and compassion in our daily lives.

Which is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility but it’s also tremendously liberating.  It’s looking at ourselves and realizing that if we’re not happy it’s because we didn’t do the work.  We may have talked the talk but we didn’t walk the walk.  We didn’t uncover that jewel inside of us.  It’s TOTALLY up to us.


Another probable reason that the Dalai Lama giggles a lot is that Buddhists believe that we are all connected.  I don’t mean that in some generalized sense of, “our common humanity,”  or, “our shared heritage,”  or the Christian sense that we’re all, “born in sin.”  No, I mean, really, genuinely, energetically connected to each other, just like there’s some invisible thread that runs from me to you and from you to another person and so on and on.  Whatever we’re feeling and experiencing emotionally and spiritually is going out into a sort of a giant, collective web of consciousness and affects not just us, but everyone else, as well.

Think of it this way:  if we’re going out grocery shopping and we’re in a really high vibrations, zippety doo dah sort of a mood, some of that positive energy is going to spark off of us to everyone we encounter, from the kid stacking tomatoes at the vegetable section to the cashier who checks us out.  On the other hand, if we’re in a really sour bah humbug fuck you mood, some of that negative energy will be transferred to other people as well.  We leave everyone we meet either feeling a little better or a little worse.

Now take that same phenomenon of energy transfer and magnify it to influencing every person on the entire planet.  That doesn’t mean that if we wake up in a rotten mood trains will crash and someone’s flower garden will die.  But it does mean that everything we’re feeling is radiating out to everyone else, even if it’s one little drip at a time.  The way that the Buddha put it was:

“Goodness, like rain in a bucket, gathers one drop at a time.

Evil, like rain in a bucket, gathers one drop at a time.”

So, if you’re a really highly evolved, spiritually aware person and you KNOW that everything you’re feeling is affecting everyone else, what are you going to do?  Are you going to sit around your house feeling like crap and radiating out bad vibes?  Or are you going to try to stay in as high and loving a place as possible, as much of the time as possible, and send out good vibes?

Obviously, you’re going to try to stay as happy as possible.  And if you stay as happy as possible, for a long enough period of time, you’ll probably start to giggle.

The Ace of Cups, Love Without a Pronoun, and Purple Thongs in the Back Seat of the Mercedes

A look at love as existing independently from people.

In the esoteric system of the Tarot, Cups represent emotions and the Ace of Cups represents pure love.  This is a card of love-as-an-energy, pouring into the world out of thin air, magically filling our lives with wonder and ecstasy. The love isn’t, “attached,” to anything, it’s just there, existing by itself.

Love-as-an-energy is a notion that’s foreign to most Westerners, so it takes a little bit of work to wrap our heads around it.  We can see a similar notion in Reiki energy healing. The Reiki practitioner directs healing energy (which we could call, “love”) to the person or situation that is sick.  BUT . . . and this is a subtle and important distinction . . . the practitioner doesn’t tell the energy what to do.  She just sends the energy and the energy solves the problems.

Huh?  What in the hell does that mean?

Well, suppose we’ve got a friend who’s got kidney problems, or at least that’s what the doctor told him.  So we sit down and light our white candles and incense and we try to visualize as much healing and love flowing toward our friend’s kidneys as we possibly can.  Only the doctor our friend saw was distracted that morning because his mistress had left her purple thong in the back seat of his Mercedes and his wife found it and now his wife and his children aren’t speaking to him and his mistress wants her thong back and his life has just turned into a shit burger.  So he accidentally grabs the wrong chart and diagnoses a kidney problem when our friend actually has exhausted adrenals.

There we are, then, sending tons of healing energy to our friend’s kidneys when his kidneys are perfectly fine and it’s his adrenals that need a little TLC.  Instead of helping, we’re accidentally short circuiting the healing process because we decided what the problem is and we were wrong.  

The Reiki practitioner, on the other hand, just sets the intention of sending the healing energy to his friend but lets the energy figure out what the real problem is and what really needs to be healed.  In other words, he views the energy of love and healing as something that exists independently of the healer and something that has its own intelligence, an intelligence that’s far greater than ours.  You send it, but you don’t direct it.

All of which seems completely weird to most of us, because we view love as coming out of SOMEONE.  We view love as always being attached to a pronoun.  I love YOU.  YOU love me.  SHE loves him.  We view it as something that people generate themselves and bestow on others, not something that flows THROUGH us, but isn’t really ours.  Even when we talk about divine love, we view it as a very personal transaction where God or the Goddess or the Angels or the Guides are personally sending us love because, you know, we’re really nice people and why wouldn’t they?  We don’t just want the love, we want the hug that goes with it.

Ram Dass expressed a lot of the same ideas when he talked about love and relationships.  What happens when we fall in love?  We’re tritty-trotting down The Great Road of Life when we suddenly see another human being and, for whatever reason, something inside of us says, “YUM!!!  I want some of that.”  So, penises get hard, vaginas get moist, we leap into the nearest bed at the first opportunity and make love like bunnies until we fall over in an intertwined heap of sweat and hormones.  Big, silly grins for everyone.  Yay!

There’s a lot going on beneath the surface, of course.  Our brains are pumping out oxytocin and we feel high as a kite because, “we’re in love.”  That very feeling and all of those pleasure hormones predispose us to view the other person favorably and as someone who’s wonderful and magical and the source of that amazing feeling of being in love.  Many times we’re totally puzzled because our friends see our love object as a schlub with a bad haircut, instead of the Amazing Wizard of Love and Happiness that we perceive, and so we begin to cut our friends out of our lives and our lover becomes the SOLE source of love in our existence.

What happens when our lovers die or we break up because we caught them playing hide the sausage with the neighbor’s teenage daughter?  Grief happens.  Deep, devastating, profound grief.

Ram Dass looked at that whole process and said, “Yup, that’s what happens,” but he put an interesting twist on it.  He said that it isn’t the loss of the person that we’re grieving, it’s the loss of love.  The person was just a vehicle in human form that GOT us to the love that we craved and we thought he or she was the source.  Put another way, we mistook the car for the destination.  

That’s basically seeing love-as-an-energy.  It isn’t an energy that comes FROM our lovers, it’s an energy that flows THROUGH them.

None of that denigrates or diminishes the wonderful process that we call, “falling in love.”  Falling in love seems to be one of the ways that nature has hard wired us to reach that state of love that heals us and makes us whole.  It’s a good thing.

What it DOES do, though, is to remove a lot of the negative qualities that too frequently go along with that process.  When we realize that love is out there, that it exists independently of other people, then falling in love loses its addictive and dependent nature.  We don’t view the other person as the source of love, we view them as a portal in our lives – sometimes temporary and sometimes lasting – through which the love flows.  We don’t depend on them for our source of love, like a junkie depends on his dealer for heroin.

If the other person goes away, that’s okay, because the love remains and we can tap into it any time that we want to, just by opening our hearts to that energy.  In a very real sense, we become the source of our own love, because we’re the ones who are making the conscious decision to stay open to that amazing energy, no matter what happens or who comes and goes in our lives.

And then we’re living in love, instead of falling in love.

It’s a good thing.

Eating Pancakes with Jesus, Having Lunch with Lucifer and Looking Inward with the Three of Pentacles

A contrast in Christian and Buddhist views of human nature and spirituality.

Are we on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out?

Do we think that heaven or redemption or satori or enlightenment or whatever we want to call it, is, “out there somewhere,” or do we think it’s inside of us, waiting to be uncovered?

Which direction are we gazing? Inside or out? It’s a fundamental, crucial question in terms of how we approach life and our personal spirituality.

In Western Christianity, there’s no question that the focus is very much outward.  Heaven, redemption, blessings are seen as things that exist but they’re not an innate part of us. Christian theology goes something like this:  

“God made you in his self-image but something kind of went wrong.  God is perfect, but you aren’t.  In fact, you’re really, really flawed.  In fact, let’s be honest here, you’re a real piece of  shit.   You like to fornicate and steal and lie to people and, um, eat bacon and shrimp.  You’re pretty much hopeless, unless you change your ways.  If you change your ways, you can eat pancakes with Jesus in heaven, and they use REAL maple syrup, not that Mrs. Butterworth’s crap.  On the other hand, if you DON’T change your ways, well, God is going to have to toss you into a flaming pit where you’ll burn in agony forever.  Because he loves you.”

Now, the salient point in all of that is that THERE IS NO GOOD INSIDE OF US.  Whatever blessings or grace may exist, they exist, “out there,” in God, and it’s only by overcoming our basic, sinful nature that we can have any hope of finding happiness and salvation.

It’s only by becoming, “not us,” that we can get God’s approval and get into that pancake breakfast with Jesus.  That sets us up for a lot of spiritual and psychological tension because, basically, everything we really like to do as human beings is a sin and sends us toward having snacks with Satan, instead of breakfast with Jesus.  Everything from sex, enjoying our possessions, loving a good meal, having a nice lazy day, eating shell fish or pork, even masturbating are ALL deadly sins.

What causes us to commit all of our sins?  Why, our bodies, of course!  It isn’t really ME that wants to get into bed with Mary Jo and fuck like bunnies, it’s my body.  It isn’t really me that wants a BLT, it’s my body.  More specifically, it’s my DAMNED body.  If it weren’t for my body, I could be, like, I dunno . . .  Mother Teresa . . . or maybe Mahatma Gandhi, except he wasn’t a Christian so he went straight to hell, of course. 

The end result of that is that we end up hating even our own bodies because the body is the source of all of those terrible impulses that cause us to sin.  That’s why Medieval christians developed wonderful traditions like whipping themselves and self-crucifixion.  The terrible, sinful body had to be literally beaten into submission so that it wouldn’t make them sin, or they’d end up having lunch with Lucifer or brunch with Beelzebub (also known as, “Beelzebubba,” if you live in Texas.)

It’s interesting and even a little startling to our Western minds, to compare that Christian model of spirituality with the Buddhist model.  Tibetan Buddhists speak of basic human nature in terms of a precious jewel or crystal that is covered with plain rock. Our job, our spiritual quest, is to uncover that beautiful jewel by chipping away at the rock, one little piece at a time.  By meditating, practicing mindfulness, and building loving/kindness into our lives, we gradually reveal more and more of the jewel, our true nature.  As Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche’ put it:

“Enlightenment is not anything new or something we create or bring into existence. It is simply discovering within us what is already there. It is the full realization of our intrinsic nature. 

In sharp contrast to Christian theology, we aren’t terribly flawed,”sinful,” beings.  Instead, we are beings that are incredibly beautiful, holy, and wonder-filled.  We just haven’t uncovered that part of our nature, that precious jewel, yet.

Our redemption isn’t, “out there,” it’s not something we’re going to find in heaven or a book.  It’s very much, “in here.”  It’s something that we find by looking inward, toward our true nature, by meditating, consciousness, and increasing the love in our hearts.

This isn’t to say that Buddhists don’t have their Greatest Hits list of, “sins.”  They condemn anger, judging others, envy, greed, etc.  But, they don’t condemn them in terms of their being a part of our basic nature.  Rather, they’re considered sort of side trips that lead us away from our basic goal of enlightenment.  They’re distractions, rather than definitions of who we really are.

There’s actually a major Buddhist doctrine called, “Precious Human Birth,” which not only says that we’re NOT terrible, sinful creatures, it says that if we were born human, we hit the fucking jackpot.  Only human beings are able to consciously contemplate life, make ethical decisions, and improve our spiritual state of being.  When we consider all of the trillions of other beings on our planet who were incarnated as insects and animals, being humans puts us in a very, very, VERY small minority.  We lucked out.

It’s a major shift in thinking for most of us who were raised in the West.  Our bodies aren’t sources of primal, evil urges; they are precious vessels that contain an ineffable beauty just waiting to be brought to the light.  They are a gift beyond comprehension.  Heaven and salvation aren’t up in the sky or hiding in a holy book – they’re in our hearts.

And if heaven is in our hearts, we are sacred.  Umm . . . really? Hmmm . . .  Are you sure?

The Three of Pentacles is a pretty good illustration of the two choices we can make.  The stone mason stands on a stool, mallet in hand, ready to carve.  Beside him there is a monk and a fool holding a plan.  The monk represents a religious creed, a looking outward to others for answers to our spiritual quest.  The fool represents our basic human nature, that surge of playful, happy spiritual energy that occurs when we gaze within and joyfully embrace what already exists in our hearts and souls.

We just have to understand that everything that we want to be, we already are.